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Opinion: This is not the time for politics as usual

Toni Boucher is a Connecticut businesswoman and former District 26 State Senator.

Uncertainty is gripping the nation and its financial markets. Economies are shutting down: life as we know it is grinding to a halt. “Americans should be prepared…to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing,” says Dr. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

To slow the spread of COVID-19 virus, Dr. Oz recommends the following:  “… washing your hands alone is probably a 50% reduction in virus transmission…it’s a DIY vaccine…it’s that powerful…But, the most important thing is social distancing.”

We are advised to stay informed, vigilant, healthy and keep others safe.

 

We have confronted SARS, Avian Flu and Ebola.

Why is this time different?

Dr. Lipsitch, Harvard’s Director of Center for Communicable Disease, explains: “New viruses have a temporary but important advantage—few or no individuals in the population are immune to them. Old viruses, which have been in the population longer, operate on a thinner margin—most individuals are immune, and they…transmit among the few who aren’t.”

The concern is that over 80% of those who contract the virus may have little or no symptoms, making it easier to spread, and difficult to identify and contain. This has not only overwhelmed medical systems, but can hurt patients with serious underlying conditions.

States are closing school systems; restaurants, retailers, hotels, airlines, cruise lines, travel agencies, malls, museums, concert halls, movie theaters, amusement parks, barbers, beauty salons and dry cleaners, along with many other businesses are particularly hard hit.

Large businesses are implementing work from home policies. Work arounds are being employed. Zoom, Cisco Webex and other teleconferencing sites make distance working and learning possible. Small customer facing businesses do not have that luxury.

The havoc in our everyday lives as the impact of this virus continues to unfold, and the uncertainty of its duration leaves our financial systems scrambling to adapt and adjust.

The one thing financial markets do not like is uncertainty. Wall Street temporarily suspends trading, as 2000 point swings become commonplace. The Federal Reserve cuts rates to a target of 0 to .25%, and will buy bonds to pump money into the economy.

What can state governments do?  As the pandemic evolves and until there are medical breakthroughs, state leaders should pull out all the stops. These times call for drastic measures. This is not the time for politics as usual. Any previously enacted legislation that hurt residents and businesses as they fight to overcome the multifaceted and interconnected challenges this new healthcare tsunami presents must be immediately assessed.

Years of anti-growth policies and unfunded liabilities have placed Connecticut in a precarious financial situation and may quickly drain the Rainy-Day fund.

The administration should bring state unions back to the table. Their lavish benefits can no longer be supported given this crisis and the massive private sector losses. Connecticut’s unfunded pensions needed to be restructured even before the market collapse.

The legislature should consider:

  • Taking off the table tolls, grocery taxes, new payroll taxes and other anti-consumer legislation.
  • Suspending sales taxes for a period.
  • Removing state fees on utility, electricity, gas and phone bills.
  • Providing free or low interest business loans.
  • Rescinding or delaying implementation of minimum wage increases.
  • Extending state income tax payment deadlines.
  • Waiving state permit and agency fees.
  • Extending unemployment insurance.
  • Rescinding the 10% corporate profit tax.

The private sector needs government support, not takeovers. Businesses are deeply concerned that the full impact of the infectious disease is just beginning to be felt. They will need all the help they can get to stay viable and keep the economy afloat. The state government should stop creating government run pensions, insurance and healthcare that would further disrupt the private sector.

One possible exception could be the creation of state business continuity insurance fund for small businesses like restaurants that are being forced to shut down by the state much like flood or fire. The state should also require all private business interruption insurance policies to treat this period as a covered event.

Americans are helpful, generous and compassionate people. They always come through when needed. We thank our truckers delivering critical goods, manufacturers producing much needed products, first responders, and the medical community who are on the front lines delivering vital services.

Politics has no place here. We are all in this together, and together we will overcome this and be stronger for it.

6 comments

John ONeill March 17, 2020 at 1:54 pm

Toni: Thank you for your thoughts. HOWEVER, I’m afraid your comments seem to be political. BUT, you are not alone in your partisanship skew. It seems like ALL our local state politicians are making this political in one way or the other. I find it disgraceful whether it’s you or Bobby Duff burying political slants into your rhetoric. It’s time for the AMERICAN Team to pull together and in a non-partisan way to push programs to make a bad situation less bad. I’m a fan of many of your policies, BUT can we keep the political baggage in the closet for a few weeks? Again, Duff and his minions are probably worse than you on this partisan game of Russian Roulette. Maybe some should get a full time job to keep busy.

David Muccigrosso March 17, 2020 at 4:07 pm

Are you flaming insane?

This is an important time to remain calm and reasonable, but let’s not let all sense fly out the door and forget to objectively evaluate proposals like these.

In this case, the proposal is so bad and inadequate to address the problems facing us, that were we not in the midst of a crisis it might seem to be an attempt to get one’s personal wish-list passed.
Waiving a bunch of fees and taxes isn’t going to help our businesses nearly to the extent that they need.

We need federal cash payments, *now*, to shore up the personal finances of laid-off restaurant employees and spark demand among their customers. And we need a statewide suspension of regular payments like rent and mortgages for businesses who were covered by the Governor’s emergency orders.

David Muccigrosso March 17, 2020 at 5:45 pm

One more thing:

Bar and restaurant owners won’t see a dime from a 10% profit tax holiday if they don’t have any revenue because they’re closed.

Kevin Kane March 18, 2020 at 9:13 am

The solutions are complex and infinite but I think the $1000 check to Americans is not the right path. I also believe the core issue is that far to many people live paycheck to paycheck. To a degree, I would imagine small business are in the same circumstances.
This survey shocked me and explains not only why they $1000 is not the right idea but virus or no virus, there is a massive, massive problem when : Only 40 percent of Americans would pay an unexpected $1,000 expense, such as a car repair or emergency room visit, from savings. That figure is consistent with the range of 37 to 41 percent seen in surveys from 2014 through 2018.
https://www.bankrate.com/banking/savings/financial-security-january-2019/

I also would find it helpful if businesses or via Chamber of Commerce’s convene a conference call to articulate what they need or envision as a path forward instead of Hartford guessing what they need.

Diane Lauricella March 18, 2020 at 9:51 am

Toni

This piece does point out several thought-provoking points HOWEVER your list of legislative considerations reads like a partisan, political Republican rehash.

In order to be authentic, I wish you would have stopped pretending your article wasn’t “political”. Really.

And while we are here, when will you and the CT Republicans say one thing about the President’s disgraceful initial attempt to call this national alarm a “Democratic hoax”?

Once again, crickets.

John ONeill March 18, 2020 at 1:38 pm

@Diane – You seem to be showing your political side as well. A simple critique would have sufficed. Congrats for jumping into the cesspool.

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